David, Barry, and Randy South built the first Monolithic Dome home for their mother, Marjorie South, my grandmother. Instead of calling her Grandma or Granny, she had us call her “Marj.”
Dad said that Marj wanted to live in a Monolithic Dome. “We designed it with a 50-feet (15.25 m) in diameter and 18-feet (5.5 m) height and drew her floor plan on the back of an envelope. It wasn’t a floor plan many people would like, but it was what Marj wanted. About a third of the house was the living room with surround windows. Her home, with its view of a shimmering river and sweeping eagles, became our first residential dome.”
I remember when the dome shell was up and the walls were being constructed Dave (age 9) and I (age 7) went with dad and others to spend the day there. The group left to drive to the top of the butte and we decided to remain and explore the house. After a while, we got bored and discussed the option of walking to where they were. I was scared to venture out because I had heard that a mountain lion had been spotted on one of the buttes. Dave was confident we would be fine and we started walking uphill and were soon met by the family coming down.
The three-bedroom, two-bath, 2700 (250 m²) square feet dome with loft quickly became the site for family get-togethers. The first was for the Fourth of July celebration in 1978. We all slept on Marj’s finished floors and Randy came in that morning passing out candy bars, saying, “Have a cigar!” because his first son, Andrew, was born that morning.
When I was 19 I lived with Marj during one semester of college. I slept on the living room couch, by all those windows, and watched the sun come up every morning. It was heaven. She was a teacher and helped me ace my final essays.
Marj’s house was built during the time it was thought to be a good idea to remove and reuse the Airform instead of leaving it on as a roofing membrane. Therefore, her house is the same size and shape as a farm shop a couple of miles away. The coating on the home rapidly deteriorated leaving the foam exposed. The hand-split cedar shakes have done a great job of keeping the foam dry and the house waterproof. Now 40 years later it is time to do something new and metal shakes are being considered as a good option.
My Aunt M'Jean said, “Marj loved everything about her new dome home. She loved her spectacular view of the Snake River. Just watching the water flowing by was mesmerizing. Occasionally an eagle would dive for a fish. A variety of beautiful birds seeking mates were fooled when seeing their own reflection in the 14 tall one-way windows. At night, from her bedroom, she would see the reflection of the moon on the water.”
When I was 22 I was invited to live with Marj again, as she was approaching the end of her life. She needed help. I wasn’t much help, but I kept her company. We were shut-ins together. I would spend hours at the windows watching birds, on good days, seeing as many as 30 different species. That winter was bitterly cold, often 40 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) below zero. We only used space heaters for the house and it stayed beautifully warm. The current owners now have a small wood stove that heats the whole house.
I lived with Marj until she passed away on June 15, 1993. I loved living with her, knowing her, and living in her dome home.